Gov. Kristi Noem's family leave plan dies in South Dakota House Appropriations debate

PIERRE — Gov. Kristi Noem's landmark paid family leave program that would've extended leave benefits for state employees and would've been available for private businesses to buy into died in a unanimous vote during a House of Representatives Appropriations committee Thursday afternoon.

The bill, HB 1151, brought by Rep. Mike Weisgram, R-Fort Pierre, would have created a 100% paid family leave program over 12 weeks that state employees could use after the birth or adoption of a child, if a family member was sick or events arising from a spouse's military deployment. The program would have been considered part of the employee's insurance plan and private South Dakota businesses could work with the insurance agency to create a leave plan that worked for their company.

Less than $3 million would have been taken out of the state's Human Resources bureau to fund the program for state employees, Rachel Oglesby, Noem's chief of policy, said.

More:Second part of Gov. Kristi Noem's paid family leave program fails in committee


While the insurance and chamber lobbies were in favor of the bill, one representative, William Shorma, R-Dakota Dunes, was the lone opposition.

Shorma, liked the idea of paid family leave, however, said the plan went too far for small and midsized businesses, because, "it's too rich for their business plans."

Appropriators, such as Rep. Linda Duba, D-Sioux Falls, questioned if the Governor's Office had worked with small and medium sized businesses to see if this was a proposal they would buy into.

Oglesby explained the policy was modeled after New Hampshire's family leave program but that the office had not worked with specific South Dakota businesses to craft the legislation.

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And while the committee members thanked the Noem administration for wanting to expand paid family leave and leading by example for private businesses, there were other ways to go about expanding the program.

"There's room to do this within state government without this particular bill and I hope that moves forward," Rep. Tony Venhuizen, R-Sioux Falls, said.

The 9-0 vote against the program is the latest development in the Legislature's check on Noem's paid family leave program. The governor, while on the campaign trail in the fall, had announced the proposal as part of her Stronger Families agenda, which was established after the overturn of Roe v. Wade that summer and meant to focus on supporting families in the state better.

But, Wednesday afternoon in a Senate Health and Human Services committee, a companion bill that would've created a $20 million incentive for private businesses to buy into the expanded paid family leave program was killed 4-2 amid worries about longevity and if small businesses could apply in time for the "first come, first serve" grant.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Gov. Kristi Noem's family leave plan dies in South Dakota Legislature